Andreas Happe: Living with changes

November 7, 2018 in life

This year seems to bring a lot of changes: I’ve switched employers after staying on/off at a research center or the last twelve years. When I started there, I was doing cool network coding for the SECOQC quantum key distribution network, it somehow felt as being a part of some bigger undertaking that finally let to something. My work had a tenable outcome, this compensated for the long hours and poor pay. Colleagues were (and have been until the end) good friends and oftentimes mentors.

Now, a couple of research projects later I’ve quit (actually I’ve quit at the beginning of summer), why?

  • Lately the only outcome of my involved research projects seem to be keeping some companies and universities afloat instead of doing cool research stuff. Slaving away doing this is not something that I want to look back at my time of dying.
  • I’ve had my share of bad project partners recently. Typically this let to more work for the willing partners and eventually even let to burnouts within the project. A high turn-over of competent engineers is also not looking good. This is not a place where I want to be.
  • Lots of redundant and outcome-less meetings and telephone conferences. In addition my research center relocated, this would impose additional 45 minutes of daily commute. I do not have enough time in my life for both of those issue.
  • As the economy is not doing that great lately, there was an understandable push for more industry-centric projects (e.g., money-generating projects). Which is not the greatest fit for a research center as those inherently are lacking customer support facilities as well as the experience of maintaining multiple software products in the long term (or even getting software into production grade, not prototype grade). Claims that we won’t get some software into production-shape with existing resources fell on dead ears. If I want to be a business software developer, I’d be employed at a business directly and earn more money.
  • The research company is very Windows-centric, our research projects were Linux-centric. This let to a lot of friction and thus to increased effort. For something that should be painless in the first place. No more.

In summary I was missing personal and professional growth, being back-held by the large and bureaucratic, partially state-owned, research company. There were no hobbies in my daily life anymore, I spent lots of hours (including weekends) on a research project that would have no earth-shattering impact. So I’ve quit. In parallel my long-term girlfriend dumped me (pain of a long-distance relationship).

I am still discovering and reinventing myself. In the last couple of months some changes were:

  • I’ve joined a small software security company as Senior Security Consultant. The switch from Engineer (coding) to Engineer (giving my opinion) makes sense, lately I’ve been more of an Software Architect anyways. I’ve limited my initial employment to 24 work-hours per week – this gives me enough time for fun projects on the side.
  • I am back at bouldering as well as doing yoga for 2-3 times a week and am thinking about branching out into rock-climbing, canyoning. Haven’t smoked for some months now, I use calm for meditation almost daily. This feels better than before.
  • I do some small stuff to improve the IT security landscape (work on national standards, also became a top contributor for the OWASP Mobile Security Testing Guide) and accepted an offer to teach web security at the FH Technikum Wien, hopefully this makes the world a bit of a safer place.

So yeah, stuff is in flux, hopefully into the right direction.

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